The story goes like this:
A former gang member trying to leave the gang life was assigned, among other activities, to a meditation group. Two weeks into the class, the instructor called his supervisor and complained.
“He doesn’t want to be here,” the teacher said.
“Where is he right now?” asked the supervisor.
The student was in the class four months before he put his phone down and began to actively participate. I was struck, as I listed to the story, at how often that kind of situation occurs at the gym or with fitness related activities.
People come to the gym for a variety of reasons, and in a lot of different situations. Some folks show up because a doctor said so, some show up because if they don't change something in their lives, they'll have to go on medication, and still others come because a friend dragged them through the doors, metaphorically kicking and screaming (literally though, sometimes bitching and moaning).
But I'll tell you right now, that showing up is the hardest part of adopting a new routine.
In the past few months, I've fallen out of my meditation routine, so I spent the past week trying to reclaim that space. The best I could do was to sit on my meditation pillow for five minutes, which I did three times this week.
I didn't meditate.
I sat there, shifting around, thinking of everything I had to do that day, and then I got up when the timer went off.
Sometimes, showing up is all we can do. Meditating feels hard for me right now. For others, being at the gym is hard - they don't want to be there. They don't love working out. Many don't even get the reward of feeling better at the end of the workout. They're just relieved to check it off the list.
Some people fall in love with working out right away, but many folks don’t. I can think of one client who came to the gym for a full year and “tolerated” every minute of it. She openly hated working out, and it was always amazing to me that she somehow made herself get to the gym.
I asked her once what her motivation for coming to workout was when she disliked it so much.
"I realized one day that I was the fat friend in a group photo," she said. "I don't know when it happened, but I suddenly saw a photo on Facebook and realized that was me."
Somehow, despite her dislike of the workouts, she kept showing up. She didn't want to be at the gym, but she got there at least twice a week.
Then something interesting happened. She missed a week when she got sick - and when she came back she realized how much better working out made her feel. Mind you, she'd lost 40 pounds through the process of showing up and putting in the work. But it took a year for her to want to come to the gym.
Even now, she doesn't love it. But when you're building a new habit, it's helpful to have a reward at the end of the behavior, and for many of us, the reward is that we feel better after the workout. She feels that now, but she didn't for the longest time.
Maybe you’re showing up to the gym because a friend dragged you. Maybe you show up, do half of a warm up, and shuffle through the workout. You know you "should" do more, but you don't have it in you.
I believe that if you keep showing up - if you keep putting in the effort - that one day you will realize that you don’t have to measure up to some abstract unattainable idea of who you should be.
Let me repeat that last phrase one more time:
One day, you'll realize that you don't have to measure up to some abstract unattainable idea of who you should be.
You just need to be you.
Keep showing up.
And good things will happen.